x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Champions League: Neil Lennon looks for Celtic players to learn from Juventus defeat

The Scottish champions crashed out 5-0 on aggregate to Juventus as Lennon admitted keeping his young team together would prove a challenge this summer.

Juventus's Alessandro Matri scores against Celtic.
Juventus's Alessandro Matri scores against Celtic.

Neil Lennon has told his young Celtic side to learn from their experiences in the Champions League this season after a 2-0 defeat in Turin confirmed their exit from the last-16.

The Scottish champions had already been facing a tough battle to take something from their knockout stage tie with Juventus after suffering a 3-0 defeat in Glasgow.

But while goals from Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella handed Lennon's side a 5-0 defeat on aggregate, the Celtic coach believes his players can only enhance their careers after their performances in the tournament this season - if the club can keep hold of the likes of Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama.

"It would be a travesty for these young players not to progress their careers after achieving so much and having played against some of the best players and teams in the world," he said after the match.

"While I hope they learn we won't know until we come back into the competition next July.

"But it is going to be very difficult (to keep them). Some of them want to progress their careers maybe out of Scotland and it is difficult to stop that progression.

"We are doing our job, bringing these young players in and developing them and hopefully selling them on for significantly more than we brought them in for, but we will have

With Hooper and Georgios Samaras in attack, supported by Kris Commons through the centre, the visitors edged forward with some confidence looking for the first goal which was needed to give them any sort of realistic chance of rescuing the tie.

In the 21st minute they came close to getting the opener when Commons capitalised on slack play to set up Joe Ledley, whose drive from 25 yards whistled just past Gianluigi Buffon's left-hand post.

However, three minutes later any remote chance of a comeback disappeared when Juventus took the lead, after Hooper had lost possession.

When Quagliarella's low drive from 16 yards was parried by Fraser Forster, Matri was first to the rebound to knock the ball into the net.

Celtic kept pushing forward and three minutes later Commons' shot from 25 yards took a deflection off Hooper and had Buffon in trouble - but the veteran goalkeeper reacted sharply to push the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

After Arturo Vidal had curled a shot over the bar to end a Juve break, Hooper was only inches away from getting a toe to Samaras' cutback after the big Greece striker had powered his way to the by-line.

Kayal had a weak header from an Emilio Izaguirre cross saved by Buffon and Forster finished the half with a decent save from Vidal as again the Celtic rearguard parted.

Juventus' second goal was rather simple.

Pirlo's pass found the tireless Vidal breaking past Izaguirre and when he squared to Quagliarella the Juve striker tapped into an empty net.

Antonio Conte, the Juventus coach, was impressed by the way the visiting fans stood by their side when it was clear that their European journey was ending.

He said: "I would like to thank all the supporters, the Juventus supporters especially, and the Scottish supporters because they kept on supporting the team and dancing all the time, it was a very positive example to all of us

"We can't forget that Celtic qualified with important results against Barcelona and Benfica so we shouldn't undervalue that they are a very strong team who had to be evaluated very carefully.

"We are in the quarter-finals, the whole club is satisfied that we are back in the elite of European football and we hope to go on the right way."


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